It’s not necessarily a secret that, in tech, the ratio of women to men is out of balance. That ‘bro culture,’ however, doesn’t exist at programmatic company Goodway Group.
According to the Bureau of Labor, in 2016, women accounted for 25% of all “computing occupations.” Further, Deloitte indicated “that figure is about the same as 2015, and may even be down. Gender imbalance in IT has been recognized as an issue since at least 2005.” There is certainly much more research into women in technology that bears witness to the current state of affairs, but the Goodway Group has consistently bucked the trend — with a gender breakdown of 75% women, 25% men.
For Jay Friedman, chief operating officer of Goodway Group, a Philadelphia-based company focused on programmatic media, SEM and advertising performance, it just kind of happened that way, which makes it even more of a rarity on the ad tech world.
The bro culture and issues related to the hiring pipeline and retention of women are just a few of the issues that contribute to the logjam. Less women-friendly practices, especially around flexibility in the workplace, could potentially be one key issue. In Goodway Group’s case, the 400-strong workforce is distributed throughout the United States, and not necessarily in the bubbles of Silicon Valley or New York City. In fact, a vast majority of the team members are in places like Waco, Texas; Melrose, Wisconsin and North Kingstown, Rhode Island.
“I think that certainly the distributed nature of our company lends itself to women,” said Friedman, giving one explanation.
Lindy Jones, Goodway VP media operations, who is based in Waco, points to the ability to “move back ‘home’ to the country which fits my pace of life” as a critical positive point that has allowed her to have the flexibility of working remotely that has “increased my quality of life which, in turn, allows me to be more productive at work.”
That flexibility allows Goodway, an 86-year-old, family-owned company, to hire the best people, regardless of gender, and that includes the usually male-dominated engineering staff.
“With engineering itself – fingers on keyboard coding – we have four out of 20, which is still high. In the actual engineering group it's certainly less, but if you look across the team that sits at the strategic planning table for Goodway, we have 13 leaders, seven of them are women,” said Friedman.
Goodway’s approach appears to point to a continued evolution of women in technology, according to Nicole Jordan, chief executive and founder of Radix Collective, a technology communications consultancy based in Los Angeles.
“There's an evolution happening in the workforce where women who have accumulated the expertise and the battle scars are elevating up into higher positions. I think that is a continued evolution that's going to happen,” she said.
Being distributed nationwide might seem a problem for some, but for Goodway, a Grand Prix winner at The Drum's Digital Trading Awards USA, it doesn’t seem to matter.
I meet a lot of different CEOs and [they say] ‘I don't understand how you can have 400 people who are all remote and not in the same office’ and we're just very matter of fact about it; ‘Well, if you have the right measures and the right job responsibilities and the right performance review things in place, then it doesn't matter.’”
In the hiring process, Goodway doesn’t make gender an issue, and sometimes they wish it were even less an issue.
“When we hire, we wish that we couldn't tell from the resume what gender they were, because we really don't care,” he said. “I think it works out such that you get a lot of female intelligence perspective and that balances out maybe how [president] Dave [Wolk] and I think.”
Goodway uses what Friedman calls work-life integration, rather than work-life balance, because often work and life co-mingles, and shutting off isn’t always an option, but freedom to do what you need to for family first.
Jordan sees this, not just at Goodway, as big plus, especially for women in the industry.
“If you have a family owned company you're going to appreciate family owned,” noted Jordan. “That naturally would attract women. Especially family women who have kids, which is important because advertising never shuts off. So I think there's got to be a little bit of a shift to being more realistic about people's lifestyles.”
Additionally, Goodway has a much lower than average turnover ratio, part and parcel of being an independent, family-focused company, but also coming from deeper vetting.
“We are very careful in who we hire,” said Friedman. “The interview process, even for a coordinator level job, is six hours, with assessments and interviews. We make it difficult to be here, but once people are here they tend to stay and like it and it tends to work out.”
After hiring, the company preps people for success. They make their expectations clear, making sure workers have the ability to work nine to five in an uninterrupted space, but are also able to have work-life integration to do what they need to do at home but also get the job done.
“I've found that as long as you set the expectations right, that the right people will find the ability to integrate their work and life to get the job done and really impress you,” he added.
Friedman can’t imagine a culture where the gender balance doesn’t exist. He doesn’t connect at all with the bro culture, even though he sees it in other companies.
“If you hire the person with the right culture and values and inspire them, gender and all the other things don't matter. You can have all the venture money in the world and if you don’t have some diversity, you’re headed for a problem.”